Cathy Freeman celebrates winning the women's 400 meter race at the Sydney Olympics (Image: AP Photo/Thomas Kienzle, File)

It's hard to believe it was 20 years ago next week that Sydney opened its arms to embrace the world at the Sydney Olympics. Today there's no embracing. No crowds. No foreigners even allowed in.

This contrast can’t entirely be blamed on the pandemic; the global love-fest ended long before this. In fact, it ended within one year of the great party.

The Sydney 2000 party had kicked off months earlier at the beginning of the new millennium, as the city got ready for the spotlight. Sports stadiums went up, highways were laid down and the newly refurbished Woolloomooloo wharf restaurant precinct was jumping. Business geared up for a prolonged tourism bonanza, despite the fact that the unpopular GST had just been implemented in June.